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"The third and finest Akashic entry yet in its Drug Chronicles series focuses on the enigmatic opium poppy and its various derivatives...As the 13 contributors to this all-original anthology reveal, those who partake of the sacred flower are forever changed, but the price of paradise is often steep: overdose, hepatitis C, degradation, self-destruction. Stahl, himself a recovering addict with long-term sobriety, has assembled an impressive array of writers to create this 'encyclopedia of bad behavior.' Indeed, these tales of chasing the dragon,
"The third and finest Akashic entry yet in its Drug Chronicles series focuses on the enigmatic opium poppy and its various derivatives...As the 13 contributors to this all-original anthology reveal, those who partake of the sacred flower are forever changed, but the price of paradise is often steep: overdose, hepatitis C, degradation, self-destruction. Stahl, himself a recovering addict with long-term sobriety, has assembled an impressive array of writers to create this 'encyclopedia of bad behavior.' Indeed, these tales of chasing the dragon, with corollaries often violent and savage, will satisfy devotees of noir fiction and outsider art alike."
--Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Editor Stahl (Permanent Midnight) has put forth a gritty, naked collection of short stories on the bleak life of heroin addicts. These tales by such edgy literary writers as Gary Phillips, Lydia Lunch, and Nathan Larson give different voices . . . that keep the stories fresh and above comparison.”
“Like its two predecessors, devoted to cocaine and speed, The Heroin Chronicles confirms how drugs are . . . the basis of some of the most unforgettable fiction you’ll ever read.”
"For all the bleakness, suffering, and crime seeping from the pores of this anthology, Stahl welds together a creative whole from disparate voices. Because illegal drugs, especially heroin, are so damaging, it is refreshing to read an anthology focusing on drugs that neither moralizes or condescends to the reader. These stories reflect upon the human damage, one individual at a time."
--CCLaP: Chicago Center for Literature and Photography
"The Heroin Chronicles conveys the sentiment that a life of heroin addiction is a human comedy, but it will usually end in dark or, even worse, banal tragedy."
"The Heroin Chronicles, the third entry in the [Akashic Drug Chronicles] series, is the finest so far -- a collection of short fiction that puts this series on the same must-read category as the Noir Series
The Heroin Chronicles is full of stories about suffering, survival, overdoses, hepatitis C, poverty, self-loathing, humiliation, danger, death, degradation, guns, and self-destruction. They’re all told with unflinching sincerity by authors who have either been there or extremely close to it. If you’re familiar with the Drug Chronicles, you know saying this is the best one yet is saying a lot. If you’re not familiar with the series, this is the definitely the book to start with."
Inspired by the ongoing international success of the city-based Akashic Noir Series (Brooklyn Noir, Boston Noir, Paris Noir, etc.), last year Akashic created the new Drug Chronicles series. On the heels of The Speed Chronicles (Sherman Alexie, William T. Vollmann, Megan Abbott, James Franco, Beth Lisick, etc.) and The Cocaine Chronicles (Lee Child, Laura Lippman, etc.) comes The Heroin Chronicles, a volume sure to frighten and delight. The literary styles are varied, as are the moral quandaries herein.
Heroin has long been understood as the most "literary" of narcotics, and this collection will, for better and worse, have tremendous pop cultural appeal.
Featuring brand-new stories by: Eric Bogosian, Lydia Lunch, Jerry Stahl, Nathan Larson, Ava Stander, Antonia Crane, Gary Phillips, Jervey Tervalon, John Albert, Michael Albo, Sophia Langdon, Tony O'Neill, and L.Z. Hansen.
Jerry Stahl is the author of six books, including the memoir Permanent Midnight (made into a movie with Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson) and the novels I, Fatty and Pain Killers. Formerly the culture columnist for Details, Stahl's fiction and journalism have appeared in Esquire, The New York Times, and The Believer, among other places. He has worked extensively in film and television and, most recently, wrote Hemingway & Gellhorn, starring Clive Owen and Nicole Kidman, for HBO.
"This is a tough crew in these pages, but you will find them human and vulnerable, perhaps more so than your average 'normal' functioning being. 'Junkies are like veterans,' Stahl writes, 'or bikers, or cancer survivors, or ex-cons.'...With this posse in tow, Jerry has no need to worry. They have been to the depths and, like Dante on the wrong road, come back to enthrall you."
"Not every junkie can write. And not every writer is a junkie. Stahl has assembled a fine roster of ballsy writers who tip their hats in respect to the junkie writer masters who came before them."
--Front & Centre (Canada)
"Akashic Books once again pushes the boundaries with the newest addition of the Drug Chronicles, The Heroin Chronicles...This book is out there, man. The stories are funny, sad, true-to-life, and most of all eye-opening...These stories are chaotically beautiful and they will draw you to the authors, forcing you to look for more of their work."
It has not been in the pursuit of pleasure that I have periled life and reputation and reason. It has been the desperate attempt to escape from torturing memories, from a sense of insupportable loneliness and a dread of some strange impending doom. —Edgar Allan Poe
Somewhere, a long time ago, I wrote: All my heroes were junkies. (Hey, you pick your cliché and you run with it. That's half of life. ) So let's march 'em out. The Junkie All-Stars: Miles Davis, Lenny Bruce, Keith Richards, Billie Holliday, William S. Burroughs, even Dylan, there for a while. (Not to mention Cliff Edwards, otherwise known as Ukulele Ike, the voice of Jiminy Cricket and a lifelong addict. Junkies have all the best stories. But we'll get to that.)
Of course, Rush Limbaugh seems to have also colonized his hefty keister onto the Heavyweight Fiend list, but that's these days. (And we're not going to hoist up Herman Goering, another fat-ass fascist, and drag him around the track.) Oxycontin, known to newshounds, aficionados, and Justified fans as Hillbilly Heroin, is so much easier to acquire and imbibe than the old-fashioned nonprescription variety.
But don't get me wrong, I'm not judging Rush. A man's got to do what a man's got to do. And there is no finer cure to self-hate than determined, euphoria-inducing opiate use.
Culturally speaking—shout out to Rush again!—opiate consumption now packs all the glamour of the buttock boil that kept the right-wing rant-meister out of Vietnam. For which, perhaps, Drug Czar R. Gil Kerlikowske could issue a gold medal for yeoman service in the name of addiction prevention. And I say this with respect. Growing up, if some right-wing pork roast had morphed into our national dope fiend, I would have found another line of work and become an alcoholic. Everybody knows the difference between them: An alcoholic will steal your wallet in a blackout and apologize when he finds out. A junkie will steal it and help you look for it. Call it a matter of style, or a mode of desperation. Nothing wrong with Lost Weekend or Arthur or Days of Wine and Roses, but give me Panic in Needle Park, Man with the Golden Arm, and Requiem for a Dream any day.
Ply Mother Theresa with appletinis for three days straight and she'll crawl out the other end with dry mouth and a hangover. Shoot her up for three days and by Day Four the saint of Calcutta will be strung out like a lab monkey, ready to blow the mailman for dime-bag money. Being a junkie is not a lifestyle choice—it's an imperative of molecular chemistry.
Still, Keith, Miles, and Lenny made it look pretty cool. (Even if, one learns the hard way, Lou Reed and Bird aren't on hand to tamp your forehead with a wet towel when you're kicking. By which point it's pretty clear that heroin, at the proverbial end of the day, is about as glam as puking on your oatmeal.)
It may have been some twenty years since I've stuck a needle in my neck, but it's not like everything above it has healed up nicely. Shooting dope isn't what made me a crazy, pissed-off, outsider sleazeball and one-man crippling fear machine. Heroin just gave me an excuse. But that's me. If the short stories you are about to read in this collection are about nothing else, they're about actions—occasionally hell-driven, occasionally hilarious, uniformly desperation-and-delusion-fueled actions—the kind made by those in the grip of constant gnawing need. The entire anthology, on some level, can be viewed as an eclectic and festive encyclopedia of bad behavior.
But it's the need that makes the junkie a junkie. Even when it's not mentioned in any given story, it's there, like the weather, and it's always about to storm. Once the craving goes, the habit dissipates, but the dynamic—the Algebra of Need, as William S. Burroughs put it—remains in place. Junkies are like veterans, or bikers, or cancer survivors, or ex-cons. (Speaking just as a member of Team Dope Fiend, I don't trust anybody who hasn't been to hell. I may like you, I may even respect you, but, when the balls hit the griddle, I'd prefer somebody get my back who's had experience in my little neck of it. See, I know a guy, did a dime in Quentin. Been out twenty-three years. But even now—even now—according to his wife, he still wears prison sandals in the shower. Can't get wet barefoot. Once they've walked the yard, some men look over their shoulders their whole lives. Dope fiends, metaphorically or physically, live with their own brand of residual psychic baggage.)
When you're a junkie, you need junk to live. Everything's all on the line, all the time. Here's the thing: people know they're going to die—but junkies know what it feels like. They've kicked. Which hurts worse than death. But they know they're going to run out. It's a mind-set. No matter how big the pile on the table—junkies already see it gone. Junkies live under the Syringe of Damocles. Junkies exist as the anti-Nietzsches. Whatever doesn't kill you makes you need more dope.
Which doesn't make fiends unique—it makes them human. Just more so. Junkies feel too much. And need a lot to make them not feel.
Every writer you're about to read has been to places the "normal" human may not have been. And lived to talk about it. They haven't died for your sins. But they've felt like shit, in a variety of fascinating ways. And by the time you finish this fiction anthology, you will understand, from their pain, from their degradation, from their death-adjacent joy and skin-clawing, delirious three-a.m.-in-the-middle-of-the-day lows, the wisdom that comes from the nonstop drama and scarring comedy of living every second of your life in a race against the ticking clock of your own cells, a clock whose alarm is the sweaty, skin-scorching revelation that if you don't get what you need in three minutes your skin is going to burn and your bowels loosen, and whatever claim you had on dignity, self-respect, or power is going to drip down your leg and into your sock like the shaming wet shit of green-as-boiled-frog cold-turkey diarrhea.
Unlike serial killers or traditional torturers, junkies spend most of their time savaging themselves. That everyone they know and love in the world is often destroyed in the process is just a side issue. C.A.D. Collateral Addict Damage. And yet.
From this festive and inelegant hell, these junkie writers—some ex, some not-so-ex, but a good editor never tells—have returned with a kind of sclerosed wisdom. Their burning lives may lie scattered behind them like the remains of a plane crash in an open field, but the flames will, I guarantee, illuminate the lives of any and all who read it, whether addicted to dope, Jim Beam, gun shows, bus station sex, Mars bars, Texas Hold'em, telenovellas, fame or—thank you, Jesus, Lord of Weird Redemption—great fucking writing.
Jerry Stahl Los Angeles, CA September 2012
Excerpted from THE HEROIN CHRONICLES Copyright © 2013 by Akashic Books. Excerpted by permission of Akashic Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted December 27, 2013
Shooting dope isn’t what made me a crazy, pissed-off, outsider sleazeball and one-man crippling fear machine. Heroin just gave me an excuse. ~ Jerry Stahl
The Heroin Chronicles edited by Jerry Stahl is a collection of short stories centering on heroin as the lead character. Stahl gathers together several with several junkie writers, some ex-junkies and some not so ex and puts together an extremely interesting book. This is the third book in the series preceded by The Cocaine Chronicles and The Speed Chronicles,
Heroin is the godfather of street drugs, or at least that is what I remember from my impressionable years in the 1970s. Cocaine was the rich people’s drug and from news reports it seemed to flow freely out of fountains at Studio 54 (and apparently into Stevie Nicks in great quantities). Speed was all pharmaceuticals. Those were the days before cocaine turned into crack and speed into meth. Then heroin was the king. What rock star didn’t do heroin? Lou Reed sang more than one song about heroin. America was lost in a desert with a horse with no name. Rock stars were glorious but we were constantly reminded on cop dramas about junkies and who would ever want to shoot up when all it would lead to is a good hearted, tough cop handcuffing you to a radiator or bed until you finished withdrawals. It was not a pretty picture, but people who should know better still jumped on that train.
When you pick up a book about heroin, you are never sure what you are going to get: Keith Richards the functional addict, Hubert Selby Jr’s surrealistic look, or William S. Burroughs’ hard reality. I didn’t recognize the writers, with the exception of No Wave founder Lydia Lunch of the New York underground, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.
The Heroin Chronicles gives stories from different sides and experiences. The book opens with a story of rehab and love gone wrong. Stories involve a woman outsmarting everyone, a man whose addiction talks to him much in the same way a little devil whispers into a cartoon characters ear, and a unique way to get your fix for free. Lydia Lunch explains why you should never answer the door at five forty-five on a Sunday morning.
The Heroin Chronicles cover a wide variety of experiences all concerning heroin in some way. The book is not necessarily dark and dreary nor is it by any means a glorification of drug use. It too is not a “Scared Straight” book either, but a literary look into a subject and substance that is considered taboo in society. Some of the stories seemed light, others had the feel of an action-drama, and one took place sometime in the future. It is a unique look at people’s lives written by people who are or were there before. I enjoyed this collection of short stories which is out of the ordinary for me. Rarely do short stories seem so satisfying to me. For me, at my age, these stories reminded of what that dark ledge to oblivion was supposed to be. How these stories hold up with the younger generation and much stronger drugs, I am not sure, but the stories are well worth reading if not for the subject matter, for the literary value, Highly recommended.
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This book is out there, man. The stories are funny, sad, true-to-life, and most of all eye-opening. People lose their lives over this drug, and not just in death. They lose themselves, their souls, their humanity. It can suck the being out of you in a gradual process, and you don’t realize how far you’ve fallen until you’re at the bottom. These stories are chaotically beautiful and they will draw you to the authors, forcing you to look for more of their work.
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